Meander Valley Gazette

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Burn brighter and breathe

FeatureJoanne EisemannComment
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JULY 2018

FOR THOSE of us who love wood heaters, it is definitely time to cosy-up in front of the fire. But that lovely warm feeling we get from a wood fire has a down side, as wood smoke is polluting and can be bad for our health, and health and environmental experts are urging people to take measures to reduce smoke levels this winter.

Dr John Innis from EPA Tasmania says that they undertake air quality monitoring at the Deloraine, Hadspen and Westbury stations all year, and find there is poor air quality every winter.

“Our air monitoring shows that Deloraine had 13 days, Hadspen had 43 days and Westbury had 15 days in winter 2017 when smoke levels were above the national standard of acceptable air quality,” Dr Innis says.

The Acting Director of Public Health, Dr Scott McKeown, warns that for some people, wood smoke causes ill health. “Smoke reduces the quality of the air we breathe and affects some people’s health,” says Dr McKeown.

“How smoke affects you depends on your age, medical conditions, and how long you are exposed to the smoke. Children, the elderly, smokers and people with heart and lung diseases (especially asthma and emphysema) are more sensitive to breathing in the smaller particles in smoke, which can be breathed deeply into their lungs and even enter the bloodstream. Their symptoms may get worse, and they may experience wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing.”

The EPA advises the community to use their wood heaters wisely to reduce the amount of wood smoke going up the flue into the air outside.

“In the colder months on those sunny and still, but cool winter days, smoke from wood heaters tends to linger around our streets and towns and settle in low-lying areas,” Dr Innis says.

Dr Innis says there are a number of things that people using wood heaters can do to reduce the amount of smoke that your heater produces.

“It is important to always burn with a flame and never allow your fire to smoulder. When lighting the fire and after reloading, open the air control and burn your fire on high for 20 minutes, especially before going to bed. Only burn dry, seasoned wood; and ensure the flue is clean.”

These steps should result in a reduction in the smoke coming from the flue. Every now and then, it is a good idea to pop outside and check your flue.

Further information about how to Burn Brighter this Winter, including how to operate your wood heater, can be found by visiting epa.tas.gov.au.

Photo | Supplied